5 tips from a SMART teacher mentor

This article originally appeared on the EDCompass Blog.  Click here for the original URL. Shared with Permission.

We like to feature what’s going on in our own education community here in Calgary, Alberta — SMART’s global headquartersSharp’s Audio Visual, a SMART authorized reseller who works with the Calgary Board of Education, recently undertook a new technology mentorship program with a group of enthusiastic teachers in the board. Sarah Chidley is one of the teachers who became a SMART mentor this spring and she wanted to share her top things she’s learned during this process with the EDCompass community. Enjoy!

By Sarah Chidley

Our I was asked by my school principal if I’d be willing to represent the school as a SMART mentor.  Without any thought, I of course said yes.  Up until then, my experience with any SMART software had been only through trial, error, and experimentation.  I hadn’t received any formal training or been taught some of the ins and outs of the software offered by SMART and already felt fairly comfortable with that.  Being a self-proclaimed nerd, I was already quite ahead of the curve amongst my peers, and I wanted to be able to share my knowledge with coworkers without just guessing and testing various methods to best use SMART Notebook software.

Wrapping up this year with our final SMART mentor session with Sasha Zekulin has been exciting and renewing for my teaching practice.  Although I am a newer teacher, I felt coming back to the school after a mentor session; I had a new arsenal of tricks and ideas to share with my staff and my students.

The top five most exciting new things I’ve learned that have been successful within my classroom and with my students are as follows.

1.  Templates! Sounds so simple, but up until our SMART mentor sessions, I recreated the same page layout for each of my Notebook slides.  A painful and tedious process to have to do over and over again!   Of course I’d imagined there might be some way to do this, but wasn’t sure how to create templates that could be re-used and saved as Gallery items.   This has been fantastic not only for me to create consistent layouts for presentations, but my students also now make templates for their presentations using SMART Notebook as well.

2. Activity Builder – Many coworkers don’t have SMART Notebook 11 software yet, but are all dying to get it after I demonstrated the amazingness that is the Activity Builder.  The other day even my students helped in creating an activity that sorted producers, consumers, and decomposers for our wetlands unit!  Such excitement was had watching the tadpole spin when it was placed in the wrong part of the food chain.

3. Gallery Items – This is the most underused resource in SMART Notebook software.  During one computer class, I asked my students to explore the gallery; drag and play with some of the various tools, lessons, images, and flash based activities.   Hands down, one of our most exciting and inspiring computer classes.  Students asked if they could make me a project, can you believe it?  Students ASKING for an assignment?

4.  Utilizing the SMART Board as an unsupervised station – Again it sounds so simple, but many teachers including me have only used the SMART Board as a presentation tool, not even allowing our students to touch it.   I’ve learned to just let go, and with proper instruction and pre-teaching, students take pride in taking care of the SMART Board and absolutely love using it as a station for any subject.  I’ve used it for mathematics a lot, and so many students have loved being able to draw shapes and create tables without the traditional pencil and ruler.

5. Community and collaboration. Finally, one of the most energizing things about the SMART mentor sessions has been to know I’m not a lone wolf in wanting to integrate technology and give my students an opportunity to use new tools and ways to demonstrate their understanding.   Being able to meet up with like-minded teachers who want to be better, and want to share their knowledge of technology with their staff, has been the most exciting part of the SMART mentor program.

Sarah Chidley is a teacher in Calgary, Alberta.  She currently teaches in a Grade 4/5 classroom, and loves experimenting with new educational applications she can bring to her students.  Sarah is constantly trying to find new ways to integrate art and technology into her classroom through SMART Notebook software, iPads, and digital photography.


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